When I think about philanthropy, I think of trust organizations with millions and even billions of dollars at their beck and call, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, philanthropy isn’t always about multi-million dollar projects in far off lands. These days philanthropic work can be found on playgrounds in communities across the nation.

Obviously childhood obesity is a major concern here in the United States even First Lady Michelle Obama has taken up the cause. There are several different ways to combat childhood obesity and one of these is to encourage more physical activity in the nation’s youth. Running around the neighborhood a few times sounds boring but heading to the local park and spending a few hours on the playground sounds like a lot more fun. Unfortunately, many sources of funding for playgrounds and parks have gone by the wayside during the recent economic crisis and this is where major corporations have stepped in to help.

The topic was covered in an article that recently appeared in The New York Times. In the article, Elizabeth Olson highlights the efforts by Kraft Foods, MetLife, CVS and others to help build community playgrounds. These companies not only dedicate the funds for the projects but employees often volunteer their time to actually construct the playgrounds. Of course there is a small catch to these new playgrounds, they often come with a corporate brand. The brand typically consists of a plaque with the sponsoring company’s name.

“In October, Kraft Foods made playground-building a centerpiece of its annual company “Delicious Difference Week.” About 1,300 employees, including the chief executive Irene Rosenfeld, built 13 playgrounds, including one in Washington Park on the South Side of Chicago, at a total cost of more than $1.4 million. Kraft, too, counts healthful lifestyles, along with ending hunger, as a top philanthropic priority.” Source: The New York Times

Other projects include a $15 million pledge from Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group to build or repair 2,000 playgrounds, a $1.5 million pledge from life insurance company Foresters for 20 new playgrounds, an $850,000 donation from the MetLife Foundation for 400 playgrounds and a combined effort by CVS and the Pepsi Refresh Project for an accessible playground for disabled children in Indiana.

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